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February 27, 2024

Is It Time to Seek Help? 5 Behaviors That Could Indicate an Eating Disorder

You’ve started dodging dinner plans because you’re worried your friends might notice that your eating habits have changed. 

You’ve become hyper-fixated on your body and started working out early every morning to “make up” for the previous day’s eating.

You’ve noticed that your ever-dwindling list of “safe” foods is making it hard to eat a nutritionally balanced diet.

If you see yourself in any of the above behaviors, it may indicate that you’re struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are characterized by a disturbance in an individual’s eating and food behaviors or self-perception. These complex, biologically based illnesses are influenced by environmental, social, and psychological factors. Unfortunately, they are not uncommon, with nearly 30 million Americans experiencing an eating disorder in their lifetime. Knowing the signs of an eating disorder can help you catch it early and get you the help you need. 

Below are five behaviors that could indicate that you are experiencing an eating disorder: 

1. Restricting

In the context of eating disorders, restriction involves tightly controlling or limiting food intake, not based on any allergies or health needs. Food restriction is one of the most commonly recognized symptoms, especially because of its association with the most well-known eating disorder, anorexia. Examples of restricting include:

  • Cutting out certain food groups
  • Counting calories obsessively
  • Only eating during set times
  • Hiding or throwing away food or skipping meals
  • Intense fear of food or of a specific food

2. Binge Eating

Binge eating is defined as consuming an excessive amount of food in a short period of time, often accompanied by marked distress, a feeling of loss of control around food, and emotions such as self-loathing, disgust, or guilt. Bingeing is most associated with binge eating disorder (BED) but it also occurs with bulimia, anorexia (binge/purge subtype), and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders (OSFED). 

3. Purging

Purging is characterized by compensating for or expelling food to influence body weight or “make up for” consuming calories. This behavior is seen across eating disorder diagnoses, including bulimia, anorexia, and OSFED (Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder). Examples of purging include:

  • Self-induced vomiting
  • Misuse of laxatives, diet pills, and diuretics
  • Excessive exercise
  • Misuse of insulin

4. Selective eating

Selective eating goes far beyond just “picky eating,” and is a behavior most associated with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). Examples of selective eating include: 

  • Avoiding foods with a particular taste, texture, or color
  • Anxiety about eating in public
  • Fear or aversion to swallowing
  • An extremely restrictive diet

5. Obsessing over body size and shape

Body image issues are common among the majority of eating disorder diagnoses, with the exception of ARFID. A hyper-fixation on body shape and size can manifest as the following behaviors: 

  • Body checking or body avoidance
  • Fear of weight gain
  • Inappropriate conflation of body weight and shape with identity
  • Frequently talking about weight or body image

Early Eating Disorder Intervention 

If you recognize any of these eating disorder behaviors in yourself, it is imperative to seek help as soon as possible. Among the best options for early intervention are Veritas Collaborative’s partial hospitalization (PHP) and intensive outpatient programs (IOP). PHP and IOP are critical for preventing the escalation of an eating disorder. These programs give you the structure and support you need, but more independence than 24/7 care. These programs are only for those for whom inpatient and residential care are not clinically indicated. If an eating disorder is caught and treated early, recovery tends to be shorter, less difficult, and longer-lasting. 

No one chooses an eating disorder and everyone experiencing one deserves treatment. If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of these eating disorder signs, reach out to us at 1-855-875-5812 or fill out our contact form.